“Cash-rich, Uber-backed Prop. 22 campaign scrimps on postage”

SF Chronicle:

Proposition 22, the ballot measure to exempt Uber and Lyft drivers and other gig workers from being employees, got a nonprofit postal permit for its deluge of glossy mailers, allowing it to save millions on postage. U.S. Postal Service regulations specifically say that political organizations other than political parties are not eligible. Yes on 22’s lawyers said the campaign is legitimately entitled to its nonprofit mailing status and is not a “political organization” as that regulation defines it.

“This misuse of the nonprofit permit coming from a corporate backed $200 million campaign is unprecedented and should be remedied by the Postal Service immediately,” attorneys for the No on 22 campaign, which is backed by organized labor, wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Wednesday.


“Travis Crum: The fatal flaw that should undo Amendment 3”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch oped:

The 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause mandates that state legislative districts have substantially equal populations. And today, every state uses total population as the baseline for drawing their legislative districts.

Supporters of Amendment 3 on the Nov. 3 Missouri ballot seek to change that. They claim Amendment 3 authorizes redistricting based on citizen voting-age population rather than total population. In other words, districts would be drawn to have an equal number of voters, without regard to children and foreigners. The practical effect in Missouri would be to exclude more than 50% of Hispanics and Asians but only 21% of whites and 28% of Blacks from the redistricting process. A recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that this would skew political power to whiter and more rural areas, particularly hurting the St. Louis suburbs and the Kansas City metro region.


“Court ruling could block thousands of Iowa ballot requests”; 4-3 State Supreme Court Ruling


A split Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a new Republican-backed law that could bar county elections commissioners from mailing absentee ballots to thousands of people who omitted information on their applications.

The 4-3 ruling means that voters who want to cast mail-in ballots in the Nov. 3 election must complete their absentee ballot applications before Saturday’s deadline in order to qualify.

Auditors will not be allowed to use the state’s voter registration system to fix any deficient applications, as they have done in prior elections. Voters must do so themselves.


Florida: “Armed guards at St. Pete early voting site told deputies they were hired by Trump campaign, election officials say”


Two armed guards set up in a tent outside an early voting location in downtown St. Petersburg claiming to be with the Trump campaign, according to Julie Marcus, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

“The Sheriff [Bob Gualtieri] told me the persons that were dressed in these security uniforms had indicated to sheriff’s deputies that they belonged to a licensed security company and they indicated, and this has not been confirmed yet, that they were hired by the Trump campaign,” said Marcus in a video interview with 8 On Your Side’s Chip Osowski Wednesday night.

8 On Your Side has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment and is awaiting a response.

Marcus, a Republican, is running to keep her seat as supervisor after being appointed in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Gualtieri, also a Republican, is running for re-election as well.

“The sheriff and I take this very seriously,” Marcus said. “Voter intimidation, deterring voters from voting, impeding a voter’s ability to cast a ballot in this election is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any way shape, or form. So we anticipated many things going into this election. Not only cybersecurity, but physical security and we had a plan in place and executed that plan.”


Breaking: Supreme Court in Unsigned Order on 5-3 Vote Reinstates Alabama Ban on Curbside Voting; Justice Sotomayor Writes Dissent for Three Liberal Justices; What It Means

You can find the order and dissent here.

I am not at all surprised by this ruling, even though I agree 100% with Justice Sotomayor’s disssent. If you look at the two main statements of the Court in these emergency covid election cases, from Wisconsin and South Carolina, it is clear that the conservative Justices believe that it is up to states, rather than federal courts, to decide how to best balance health concerns related to voting during the pandemic with burdens on voting rights. These Justices also seem to have adopted a strong view of the Purcell Principle against changes in voting rules by federal courts close to the election. (Chief Justice Roberts, who was in the majority in both of those cases and the Pennsylvania state case seems to believe in great deference to states—even state courts—in deciding how to balance these health and safety concerns.)

This would seem to bode poorly for the attempts by Democrats and voting rights groups petitioning the Supreme Court to reinstate the extension of voting deadlines in Wisconsin, which a district court had granted and the 7th Circuit had reversed, citing the Supreme Court precedents. Any more federally ordered voting changes that make their way to the Supreme Court before the election face a steep uphill climb.

The liberals, as expressed in the Wisconsin dissent by Justice Ginsburg and the Sotomayor dissent today would, as I believe they should, put a thumb on the scale favoring voting rights during the pandemic. It is quite clear that the right to vote is too weakly protected in the U.S. even during the pandemic.

Justice Sotomayor’s dissent concludes:

The District Court’s modest injunction is a reasonable accommodation, given the short time before the election. It does not require all counties to adopt curbside voting; it simply gives prepared counties the option to do so. This remedy respects both the right of voters with disabilities to vote safely and the State’s interest in orderly elections. The District Court’s compromise likewise does not risk creating “voter confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls.” Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549 U. S. 1, 4–5 (2006) (per curiam). The injunction lifts burdensome requirements rather than imposing them, and permits county officials to help educate voters about whether curbside voting is available in their county. See _ F. Supp. 3d, at _, 2020 WL 5814455, *44. Moreover, the injunction neither invalidates state law nor prohibits the secretary from issuing guidance consistent with the District Court’s ruling. Id., at *45, 61–62.

Plaintiff Howard Porter, Jr., a Black man in his seventies with asthma and Parkinson’s Disease, told the District Court: “‘[S]o many of my [ancestors] even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that – we’re past that time.’” Id., at *11, *15. Election officials in at least Montgomery and Jefferson Counties agree. They are ready and willing to help vulnerable voters like Mr. Porter cast their ballots without unnecessarily risking infection from a deadly virus. This Court should not stand in their way. I respectfully dissent.


“Feds say Russia and Iran have interfered with the presidential election”; What We Know and Don’t


Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Wednesday both Iran and Russia have obtained US voter registration information in an effort to interfere in the election, including Iran posing as the far-right group Proud Boys to send intimidating emails to voters.

“This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy,” Ratcliffe said.

Iranians are responsible for a voter intimidation email campaign that was made to look like it came from the Proud Boys and was also spreading disinformation about voter fraud through a video linked in some of the emails.

“We have already seen Iran sending spoof emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President (Donald) Trump,” Ratcliffe added. “You may have seen some reporting on this in the last 24 hours, or you may have even been one of the recipients of those emails.”

Ratcliffe did not explain what he meant by his statement that the emails — which were sent to registered voters from “info@proudboys.com” and warned recipients to “Vote for Trump or else!” — were intended to damage the President.

There is still a lot we don’t know about the story including:

  1. Was the voter registration information “obtained” through phishing/hacking or were the materials bought either legally or from sites on the web?
  2. What did the Russians do with the data they obtained, if anything?
  3. Why did the DNI conclude that Iran’s actions would “hurt Trump”? The idea I suppose is that it would provoke a voter suppression story backfire and motivate Democrats. Is there evidence of this intention? Or perhaps it was motivated to deter Democrats from voting?
  4. Why hold a press conference at 7:30 pm at night on a hasty basis rather than wait for the next morning?

“U.S. government concludes Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democrats”


The U.S. government has concluded that Iran is behind a series of threatening emails arriving this week in the inboxes of Democratic voters, according to two U.S. officials.

Department of Homeland Security officials told state and local election administrators on a call Wednesday that a foreign government was responsible for the online barrage, according to the U.S. officials and state and local authorities who participated in the call, all speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. A DHS officials also said they had detected holes in state and local election websites and instructed those participating to patch their online services.

The emails claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of President Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network.


Breaking: California Supreme Court Will Hear Case About California Voting Rights Act, Potentially Reviving CVRA Claims Against Santa Monica

The court’s order:

The petition for review is granted. The parties are ordered to brief the following issue: What must a plaintiff prove in order to establish vote dilution under the California Voting Rights Act? On the Court’s own motion, the Court of Appeal’s Opinion is ordered depublished. On the court’s own motion, the Reporter of Decisions is directed not to publish in the Official Appellate Reports the opinion in the above-entitled appeal filed July 9, 2020, which appears at 51 Cal.App.5th 1002. (Cal. Const., art. VI, section 14; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.1125.)

From my coverage of the court of appeal opinion:

On the question of violating the CVRA, the appeals court said that the trial court made a legal error. It said that plaintiffs alleging a CVRA violation not only had to prove racially polarized voting, but had to prove that this led to a dilution of the vote which affected the political power of the minority of the city. This is somewhat of a surprise; I had understood the CVRA as not requiring such proof, which is why I thought it was somewhat vulnerable to a federal constitutional challenge as a race-based remedy that could be found by SCOTUS conservatives to violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

It strikes me that the appeals court decision engages in a pretty uncharitable reading of the relevant part of the statute (section 14027), which reads in pertinent part: that plaintiffs must prove “the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election, as a result of the dilution or the abridgment of the rights of voters” who belong to a protected class.” The appeals court says there was no proof of “dilution” but it is dilution of the ability to influence the election, and that seems a very low bar. (The appeals court has a response to that, which you can read.)

This first part of the opinion, if it withstands further review at the state Supreme Court, is likely to lead many more California cities to resist lawsuits aimed at forcing the elimination of at large districts. (It might also cause the California legislature to rework part of the statute to make it easier for plaintiffs to win these cases.)

The appeals court was even less charitable of the trial court’s factual finding as to intentional vote dilution in Santa Monica. Generally speaking factual findings are reviewed under a very deferential standard in the appeals court. The appeals court tries to dance around this standard by saying it can review the evidence independently, but that seems questionable here. The plaintiffs’ expert historian, Morgan Kousser, presented lots of evidence about intent, which the appeals court reviewed with no deference whatsoever.

This second part of the ruling is very specific to the state of Santa Monica, but does demonstrate that some courts are going to be very wary of inferring racially discriminatory intent from mostly documentary evidence.

In short, this is a big loss for voting rights plaintiffs under the CVRA, and it enunciates a standard that, if it holds, will make these cases much more like federal Voting Rights Act cases.


Must-Read from Persily and Stewart: “How to Survive Election Night”

Nate and Charles at Slate:

Americans need to be prepared for the possibility of experiencing a roller coaster ride as the votes are counted, especially in the first couple of hours after the polls close. Counties will be reporting partial counts for longer than is typical. At the same time, analysts will be looking for glimpses of solid information about where the election is headed, based on the results from counties that do complete their counts quickly.

Panning the election returns for nuggets of complete information will be critical, if the inevitable initial uncertainty about the vote count is to be kept from sowing longer-term doubts. Americans have become aware of the possibility of a red mirage giving way to a blue shift, caused by Trump-dominated Election Day ballots being counted first, followed by Biden-dominated mail ballots being counted later. Some of these expectations have been developed by relying on cartoon images of how ballots are counted.

With the election night landscape changing for 2020, we offer the following seven pointers, aimed at the public and media alike, for an informed, and informative, viewing of the election results.


“The Sweep of the Electoral Power”

In the event that there’s unified Democratic government in Washington next year, electoral reform is likely to be high on the agenda. Debates about such reform revolve around not just its policy merits but also its constitutionality. In that vein, I’ve just posted an article, forthcoming in Constitutional Commentary, whose thesis is that Congress should and does possess sweeping authority to regulate federal and state elections. The abstract is below.

Congress is on the cusp of transforming American elections. The House recently passed a bill that would thwart voter suppression, end gerrymandering, and curb the undue influence of the rich. Something like this bill could soon become law. In this Article, I provide a multilayered foundation for such sweeping electoral legislation. From a theoretical perspective, first, I argue that Congress poses less of a threat to democratic values than do the states or the courts. It’s more difficult for a self-interested faction to seize control of federal lawmaking than to capture a state government or a judicial body. Second, surveying the history of congressional electoral regulation, I contend that it’s remarkably benign. Most federal interventions have advanced democratic values—in marked contrast to many of the states’ and the courts’ efforts.

Third, I show that current law grants Congress the expansive electoral authority that, normatively, it ought to possess. In particular, the Elections Clause, the Guarantee Clause, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Enforcement Clause combine to empower Congress over most electoral levels and topics. And fourth, returning to the House’s recently passed bill, I maintain that its most controversial elements are constitutional under the applicable doctrine. In fact, Congress could venture considerably further than, to date, it has tried to go. Together, these points should hearten legislators when they next turn to the project of electoral reform. Not only is aggressive federal action permissible in the American political system—it may be the only way to save it.


Ariane de Vogue for CNN on the Purcell Principle: “The legal doctrine that could sway the election”

Ariane de Vogue for CNN:

As emergency petitions concerning voting rights challenges have raced through the courts in the final weeks of the election, judges and justices have found themselves trying to explain a legal doctrine that was designed to preserve the integrity of the electoral process.

But for a doctrine aimed at clarity, it has, in the age of coronavirus, raised plenty of confusion on its own, and it could swing the presidential election. At issue: When should courts refrain from changing voting rules too close to an election in order to avoid causing voter confusion?

The so-called “Purcell Principle” arises out of a 2006 Supreme Court case concerning a strict voter-identification law. A federal appeals court blocked the law pending appeal. But the Supreme Court stepped in and allowed the law to take effect.

In doing so, the Supreme Court sent a strong message to federal courts: “Court orders affecting elections, especially conflicting orders, can themselves result in voter confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls.”…

Election law expert and CNN contributor Rick Hasen has coined the term “Purcell Principle” and said it needs tweaking

.In a 2016 law review article, Hasen said the court was right in Purcell to “note special considerations in election cases,” because voters could be not only confused but also disenfranchised. They could, for example, show up without the right documentation or at the wrong polling place. But he said those interests should not be the sole consideration of a court.Hasen said courts should also consider factors such as the likelihood of success of the case on the merits, and the potential irreparable harm to both sides.

Early next week, Amy Coney Barrett is set to take the seat left vacant by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Her view on Purcell might represent the deciding vote.


Progressive Group Sues Trump and Others for Voter Intimidation In Violation of the Voting Rights Act, Ku Klux Klan Act and Constitution


Latino civic engagement organization Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and several voters today filed a lawsuit against President Trump and members of the administration in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit, which names President Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, is based on the defendants’ violent suppression of public protests opposing police brutality, the encouragement of white supremacist “vigilantes,” threats to send “sheriffs” and other law enforcement to the polls, the undermining of mail-in voting, and the rejection of the peaceful transfer of power, which, the complaint alleges, constitute illegal voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and unconstitutional suppression of speech and votes under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution.  The complaint and a motion simultaneously filed with the court seek a preliminary injunction restraining Trump and the other defendants from continuing to engage in this unconstitutional and illegal intimidation.


Could We See a “Red Shift” in Vote Totals Toward Republicans After Election Night?

For years we have been noticing a pattern of Democrats voting later with absentee ballots, resulting in their ballots being counted later, and races where a Republican was in the lead on election night end with a Democratic victory. A prominent example of this “blue shift,” as Ned Foley and Charles Stewart call it, is Sinema’s victory over McSally in Arizona in 2018. Sinema gained 70,000 votes after election day.

I had been thinking that the shift would be even MORE pronounced this year, an it still may be in some places, as Democrats shift to much more vote by mail than Republicans, and as many (but not all) states report in person voting first. (Much depends on the state’s rules for processing mail ballots).

But then Nate Silver noted that Democrats are returning their mail-in ballots more quickly than Republicans, perhaps because they are more receptive to the “vote early” messages to deal with the problems of mail voting during the pandemic:

Charles Stewart thinks this could be an issue too.

Nate says this may not matter if it is a Biden blowout, and Michael McDonald thinks that decision desks and election forecasters can handle the uncertainty:

Still, it strikes me as a reason for greater caution and patience on Election Night.


“Shouting matches, partisan rallies, guns at polling places: Tensions high at early-voting sites”


During a pro-Trump rally earlier this month in Nevada City, Calif., enthusiastic supporters in cars and trucks crowded into the parking lot of the county government center.

As many as 300 people played music, cheered and called out through a megaphone, according to Natalie Adona, a county election official who could see the gathering from her second-floor office at the Eric Rood Administration Center.

But unlike usual Trump rallies, this one was happening at the site of one of the most popular drive-up ballot boxes in the county. And early voting was already underway.

That afternoon, voters were forced to navigate throughthe pro-Trump crowd, and some felt the electioneering amounted to voter intimidation.

In an election year clouded with anxieties about voter intimidation and the possibility of election-related violence, the first days of early voting have unfolded with dozens of accusations of inappropriate campaigning and possible voter intimidation in at least 14 states.The reports, though anecdotal, illustrate the tensions unfolding as more than 33 million Americans have already cast ballots two weeks before Election Day.


“Pharma contributed to attorneys general who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act”


The Affordable Care Act has driven a huge boost in revenue for pharmaceutical companies — but ironically, $1.5 million in drug industry donations last election cycle were funneled to Republican state attorneys general who will soon make a case for repealing the law before the Supreme Court.

In early 2018, a group of Republican state attorneys general filed a lawsuit seeking to repeal the ACA, which expanded prescription drug coverage for millions of people and in turn, helped drug makers rake in more revenue. Later that year, eight of those attorneys general were either elected or re-elected. And during the 2017-2018 election cycle, they received financial backing from the Republican Attorneys General Association, which secured $1.6 million from more than a dozen drug makers and PhRMA, the industry’s influential lobbying group.

The contributions, which were funneled through various state Republican committees, ranged from $2,700 to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to $650,000 to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has spearheaded the lawsuit, according to the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit group that studies corporate donations and compiled the contribution data from Political Money Line.


How Much Do TV Political Ads Matter in the Digital Age?

This Vox story, titled “Silicon Valley megadonors unleash a last-minute, $100 million barrage of ads against Trump,” is intriguing on several fronts — not just for the massive amount invovled.

Our campaign-finance laws were written before the digital age took off, and one question campaigns and scholars face is how much traditional broadcast ads (TV in particular) matter in the digital age. Yet here are some of the masters of the digital universe concluding, after in-depth data analysis, that TV ads remain late in the election still provide the biggest bang for the buck. Also interesting that this SuperPac has tried to stay below the radar screen and that this is, reportedly, the first story on it:

A little-known Democratic super PAC backed by some of Silicon Valley’s biggest donors is quietly unleashing a torrent of television spending in the final weeks of the presidential campaign in a last-minute attempt to oust President Donald Trump, Recode has learned.

The barrage of late money — which includes at least $22 million from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz — figures among one of the most expensive and aggressive plays yet by tech billionaires, who have spent years studying how to maximize the return they get from each additional dollar they spend on politics. Moskovitz is placing his single biggest public bet yet on the evidence that TV ads that come just before Election Day are the best way to do that.

The super PAC, called Future Forward, has remained under the radar but is spending more than $100 million on television and digital in the final month of the campaign — more than any other group — on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden outside of the Biden campaign itself. And it has been leading a separate, previously unreported $28 million proposed campaign to elect a Democrat to the US Senate from Texas, Recode has learned. . . .

Like other Silicon Valley donors new to politics in the Trump era, Moskovitz has sought to bring the brainy, data-driven approach that he has pioneered in his philanthropy to his political program in 2020. He has tried to calculate the “cost-per-net-Democratic-vote,” combing through academic literature to mathematically determine where each marginal dollar from him can make the biggest difference. Other significant Moskovitz bets this cycle have included millions to the Voter Participation Center, a voter-turnout organization that has been supercharged by tech money over the last two years, and Vote Tripling, a “relational organizing” approach to encourage friends to vote.

But the lead conclusion from Moskovitz’s research has been to invest in late TV ads that come just before Election Day, when the ads are still fresh on the minds of voters.


Purcell and Yesterday’s CA 4 Decision on NC

The sharply divided CA 4 en banc decision also illustrates what a mess trying to apply the Purcell “doctrine” can be. Purcell cautions federal courts against changing the status quo in election cases too close to the election. It’s probably best understood not as a “doctrine,” but an equitable consideration courts ought to take into account, along with other factors, in deciding whether to issue an injunction in election cases arising close to an election.

Part of the complexity comes in determining what constitutes the status quo baseline. In NC, the Board of Elections, through a judicial consent decree, changed the receipt deadline for absentee ballots from three days after the election — the policy in the state’s enacted election code — to nine days after the election. That decree was issued a couple weeks ago, on October 2nd.

To make matters far more simple than they are in the actual case, if a plaintiff came to federal court to challenge the order extending this deadline, should the federal court decline to decide the federal question, because it is too late for the court to change the status quo? To sharpen the point, if the federal court believes the late change to the election code is a major one and, on the merits, unconstitutional, should the federal court nonetheless not disturb the “status quo?”

That raises the question of whether the status quo should be understood to be the policies established in the state’s election code — the position of the dissenters in the CA 4 decision — or the new, Oct. 2nd policy reflected in the consent decree the Board entered into — the position of the majority.

Another, more general way to put this: if state executive officials or state courts make major, late-in-the-day changes to election law, can federal courts decide whether those changes are constitutional? Or does Purcell mean the federal courts have to stand down.

Purcell is easiest to apply when plaintiffs bring a last-minute challenge to a state policy that’s been in place for a long time. When policies are constantly changing late in the day, through the actions of state courts or state executive officials, it becomes much harder to figure out exactly how Purcell should be applied.

And I have greatly simplified the actual facts in the NC case. The situation involves a number of actions of the state courts, as well as the federal district court, with state and federal courts in the last couple weeks issuing temporary restraining order, temporary stays, and taking other actions too convoluted to be worth summarizing here. I simply want to flag the Purcell issue that also split the CA 4.


The “Independent Legislature” Issue Might Be Back to the Supreme Court In Days

After having just divided 4-4 on the PA case, which centered on the “independent legislature” constitutional issue, the Court might soon be faced with that issue yet again. The en banc 4th Circuit split yesterday on precisely this issue — along with a number of other important ones.

The NC Election Code permits absentee ballots to be received up to three days after Election Day. Ballots received later than that are not valid votes, under the Code. Following a lawsuit challenging this deadline, the NC Board of Elections entered into a consent decree in which it agreed to extend that deadline; under this decree, the Board agreed to treat ballots as valid votes if they were received up to nine days after Election Day.

That poses the constitutional question that split the 4th Circuit: did the Board violate the federal constitutional question by changing the deadline the legislature had enacted into law. In particular, did the Board violate Art. I and Art. II of the Constitution because those provisions give “the legislature” the power to regulate national elections and the manner of choosing presidential electors.

The “independent legislature” doctrine is now being litigated, or has been litigated, in several cases during this election cycle.

If the NC legislature takes this case to the Court now, by seeking a stay, the Court might decide it’s too late in the day to act on that issue now, in which case the Court might simply decline to change the status quo.

But one way or another, it now seems increasingly likely that the Court is going to end up addressing that issue, with all its implications, one day soon. That might be before the election, if the Court were to issue a stay, or after the election, when the Court would hear a case on the merits. But this issue is not going away.


“Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty in Foreign Lobbying Case”


Elliott Broidy, a former top fund-raiser for President Trump, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a covert campaign to influence the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Mr. Broidy, 63, agreed to forfeit $6.6 million to the federal government and to cooperate with prosecutors on a range of potential investigations related to his fellow conspirators and others.

The charge is a felony that could carry a prison sentence of up to five years, but his cooperation is likely to result in a lesser sentence. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Mr. Broidy’s guilty plea relates to his arrangement with the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low, who was not identified by name in court filings or during the hearing on Tuesday.

Mr. Broidy admitted that he had accepted $9 million from Mr. Low, some of which was then paid to an associate, to push the Trump administration for the extradition of a Chinese dissident and to drop a case related to an embezzlement scheme from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that the United States has accused Mr. Low of engineering.

He also admitted to meeting with a Chinese government official who was seeking the extradition of the dissident, who was not identified in court, but who is known to be the billionaire Guo Wengui, an outspoken critic of China who has been charged by its government with corruption and is seeking asylum in the United States.

Mr. Broidy did not disclose the foreign lobbying work with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, but he knew that he should have, he told Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a virtual hearing.

This is the second time Mr. Broidy has pleaded guilty to a felony. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to a felony charge, which was later reduced to a misdemeanor, in an unrelated pension fund bribery case.


“Trump Campaign’s $63 Million Dwarfed by Biden’s $177 Million”


President Trump’s re-election campaign committee ended September with only $63.1 million in the bank despite canceling some television buys late last month, leaving him badly outmatched financially against Joseph R. Biden Jr., who reported $177.3 million in cash on hand for the final stretch of the campaign.

New filings with the Federal Election Commission showed the extent of Mr. Trump’s cash troubles, which are severe enough that he diverted time from key battleground states and flew to California on Sunday for a fund-raiser with just over two weeks until Election Day. The president ended September with just over half as much money as he had at the beginning of the month.

While Mr. Trump’s campaign and its shared committees with the Republican National Committee have raised $1.5 billion since the start of 2019, the disclosures late Tuesday showed that his main re-election committee — the account that must pay for many of the race’s most important costs, including most television ads — had only a small slice remaining.

All told, Mr. Trump’s campaign and its shared committees with the R.N.C. had $251.4 million entering October, compared with the $432 million that Mr. Biden’s campaign and its joint accounts with the Democratic National Committee had in the bank.


“College Students Are Missing From Campus. Will Their Missing Votes Make a Difference?”


Though young Americans typically vote at lower rates than the electorate does as a whole, the race in Michigan’s Eighth District isn’t the only one where their absence could have an impact. David Wasserman, the House editor at the Cook Political Report, cited Illinois’s 13th Congressional District, where Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a Democrat, is again challenging Representative Rodney Davis, who narrowly beat her in 2018.

Democrats were hoping a big turnout would increase Ms. Londrigan’s chances in the rematch, especially with the college vote at the campuses of the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Illinois State University. But remote classes have left many students living away from campus, and the Cook Political Report has rated the race as leaning toward Mr. Davis’s re-election.

“The Democratic theory of that race was that all they needed to do was get the turnout up,” Mr. Wasserman said. “But there are a lot of moving parts to this student migration situation.”

Nathan L. Gonzales, editor of the Inside Elections newsletter, said the loss of students at the campuses of Oregon State University and the University of Oregon could be a factor in the race for Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District, home to both schools.


“Threatening emails to Democratic voters spark investigations in Florida and Alaska”


Authorities in Florida and Alaska on Tuesday were investigating threatening emails sent to Democratic voters that claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of President Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network.

The emails, which appeared to target Democrats using data from digital databases known as “voter files,” told recipients the group was “in possession of all your information” and instructed voters to change their party registration and cast their ballots for Trump.

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the emails warned.

Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys and the Florida state director of Latinos for Trump, denied involvement, saying the group operates two sites, and was increasingly migrating away from the domain used in the email campaign….

The domain, officialproudboys.com, was recently dropped by a hosting company that uses Google Cloud services, according to Google Cloud spokesman Ted Ladd. The hosting service cancelled the registration after Google Cloud notified the customer that a non-profit group had raised concerns about the Proud Boys, Ladd said.

Following the action from the hosting service, the domain appears to have been left unsecured, allowing anyone on the Internet to take control of it and use it to send out the menacing messages, said Trevor Davis, CEO of Counteraction, a Washington-based digital intelligence firm.

The lapse, which began on Oct. 8, “likely made them vulnerable to this kind of hijacking,” Davis said. “Bad actors are constantly scanning the Internet for opportunities. Given the public profile of the Proud Boys and the likelihood that whoever’s sending these emails has access to a voter file, this appears to be opportunism.”


“Tennessee voters were challenged at the polls for wearing Black Lives Matter and ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirts, election official says”


A poll worker in Memphis was fired last week after interfering with early voters who wore T-shirts and masks with slogans supporting Black Lives Matter, according to a Shelby County election official.

Details about the incident remained unclear Tuesday, including how many people were affected. Earlier reports indicated voters had been turned away at the Dave Wells Community Center in north Memphis last week, but no county election board officials were on hand to verify whether the prospective voters ended up casting their ballots, Shelby County Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“Our voters are not going to be intimidated. We’re doing everything we can so that every voter in Shelby County can exercise their right,” Thompson said.

The poll worker “of his own volition” was seen telling people late last week that they had to turn their T-shirt or mask inside out if it said “Black Lives Matter,” according to Thompson. A separate poll worker who worked the check-in table and was believed to be friends with the fired poll worker did not show up for work the next day, Thompson said….

When county officials reminded the poll worker, who has not been identified, of the training that all poll workers undergo — and which this year specifically addressed that racial justice slogans are permitted at the polls — he pushed back, Thompson said. She described the poll worker as expressing his belief that Black Lives Matter and the slogan “I Can’t Breathe” were “political statements connected to the Democratic Party.”


“Court lets North Carolina keep absentee deadline extension” (12-3 En banc 4th Circuit Vote)


North Carolina can accept absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day for more than a week afterward, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to block an extension for accepting the ballots that was announced in late September. The State Board of Elections decided then that absentee ballots could be accepted until Nov. 12 as long as they were mailed by Election Day, lengthening the timeframe from three to nine days. The change was made as part of a legal settlement with voting rights advocates….

The court’s majority opinion notes that ballots must still be postmarked by Election Day to be counted. The opinion says that “everyone must submit their ballot by the same date. The extension merely allows more lawfully cast ballots to be counted, in the event there are any delays precipitated by an avalanche of mail-in ballots.”

The ruling was decided 12-3. All 15 of the court’s active judges participated, rather than a smaller panel, in a sign of the case’s importance.

You can find the opinions here. Mark Stern comments on the dissent starting here:


“Doomsday Scenarios Abound, But The Next President Will Be Decided By The Voters. Not The Courts, Not Congress”

Charles Stewart for WBUR:

These are the types of scenarios that have convinced many people that Biden has no chance of winning, regardless of what happens with the voting.

However, there are two fundamental flaws beneath all this breathless scenario-building. The first is the idea that general, unsubstantiated charges of fraud would carry any weight in a court once counting got underway. The second is the idea that state election officials and courts would cooperate with a rope-a-dope strategy of vote counting, knowing what is at stake.


“Trump pressures Barr to investigate Bidens as election nears”


President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Attorney General William Barr to immediately launch an investigation of Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter, effectively demanding that the Justice Department muddy his political opponent and abandon its historic resistance to getting involved in elections.

With just two weeks to go before Election Day, Trump for the first time explicitly called on Barr to investigate the Bidens and even pointed to the nearing Nov. 3 election as reason that Barr should not delay taking action.

“We’ve got to get the attorney general to act,” Trump said in an interview on “Fox & Friends.” “He’s got to act, and he’s got to act fast. He’s got to appoint somebody. This is major corruption, and this has to be known about before the election.”

Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University, suggested that Trump’s pressure campaign on Barr has moved into uncharted territory for presidential politics.

“The question is, Does Barr erode the guidelines and reforms from the post-Watergate era and move forward with this?” Zelizer said. “We are seeing a total politicization of the justice system in the final stages of an election.”


“In last-minute push, DeSantis administration urges Florida election officials to remove felons who owe fines from voting rolls”


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration delivered last-minute guidance to local election officials recommending measures that voting-rights advocates say could intimidate or confuse voters, the latest salvo in a pitched battle over who is able to cast ballots in a state crucial to President Trump’s reelection.

In a notice sent to local election officials last week, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews urged them to remove from the voter rolls people with felony convictions who still owe court fines and fees, a move that local officials said is impossible to accomplish before Election Day.

A second memo from Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee’s general counsel recommended that election staff or law enforcement guard all mail ballot drop boxes, a step that local election officials say is not required under the law.

Election officials said they do not have time or resources to implement either measure before the Nov. 3 election, and voting rights advocates cast the back-to-back missives as the latest effort by the Republican governor and Trump ally to impede access to the ballot box.

“They’re attempting to sow confusion,” Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters Florida said of the state’s instructions. She added: “The state of Florida doesn’t have a spotless record when it come to making sure voters have easy access to the polls.”


“John Roberts put the country before politics”

That’s the title CNN put on my piece on the Supreme Court’s decision in the PA case. I’ll keep the excerpt short, since most readers here will already understand much of the background:

In the most important pre-election case this year, Chief Justice John Roberts once again appears to have decided that, for the Supreme Court, discretion is the better part of valor.After sitting for a remarkable several weeks on a Pennsylvania election-law case — the longest the Court has taken with any election case this year — the Court in the end chose to say nothing at all. Instead, it simply released a 4-4 order rejecting the Republican Party’s effort to overturn a decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a decision that permits absentee ballots to be counted even if received three days after Election Day. . . .

In a 5-4 decision that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote five years ago, the Court held that “legislature” means the general lawmaking process of a state. That meant a state can give voters the power to regulate national elections. But who wrote the impassioned, vehement, lengthy dissent for four Justices, arguing that “legislature” means just the institution? Roberts.

That is why he almost certainly believes, as a matter of first principle, that “legislature” means the institution, nothing more. And that belief would have led him to a 5-3 decision blocking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision and re-imposing the legislature’s election night deadline for absentee ballots.

But a 5-3 decision doing that would have led Biden supporters to believe the conservative majority was aligning with the Republican Party, for partisan reasons, in favor of restrictive absentee ballot rules — in a critical swing state like Pennsylvania. On top of that, the Court might well have felt obligated to explain its reasons for such a significant action. That would have required the Court to resolve the meaning of “legislature,” with all the implications doing so would entail.In suppressing his almost certain view about the proper meaning of the Constitution, Roberts chose to let these issues, like sleeping dogs, lie — at least for now. A 4-4 decision says nothing. It settles nothing. Surely a tough vote for the Chief Justice, but exactly the right call, on the eve of an election that is roiling the country like few others.


“Beyond the Adjustment Wars: Dealing with Uncertainty and Bias in Redistricting Data”

Jeff Zalesin at Yale Law Journal Forum. Abstract:

The Constitution requires legislative redistricting plans to have approximately equal populations in each district. But no one knows exactly how many people live in any district, because census data are never fully accurate. Courts have developed little doctrine in response to this problem. Yet, the need for such doctrine is growing. Policymakers have largely given up on improving the census through statistical adjustment. The 2020 Census will likely be less accurate than its predecessors, thanks to political interference and the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Essay offers a pragmatic approach to litigating malapportionment cases with imperfect population data. Courts in malapportionment litigation should clarify that they will consider evidence that the data underlying a redistricting plan are biased, such that the district populations are less equal than they appear. Such evidence will be especially important when courts evaluate maps drawn with novel types of data, such as estimates of citizen voting-age population.